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January 30, 2014

 

Homer nears turbine law adoption

Provision to hold developer responsible for diminished property values left out

By TYRONE L. HEPPARD
Staff Reporter
theppard@cortlandstandardews.net

HOMER — A town committee drafting wind turbine regulations met briefly Wednesday to finalize the legislation, which the town could approve as early as next week.
Wind Law Committee member Victor Seigel skimmed through over 20 pages of suggestions and concerns he gathered from a Jan. 10 county Planning Board meeting and during a public comment period during last month’s Town Board meeting on Dec. 4.
Seigel has tweaked the regulations in response to the comments. The Town Board will review the regulations at its meeting next week.
“I ... (tried) to balance extreme positions on both sides to come up with something that represented the majority view,” Seigel said with regard to assembling the record of public comments.
A majority of Planning Department Director Dan Dineen’s recommendations were either already included in the draft legislation, amended for clarity or added shortly after the county Planning Board meeting.
Some of the new provisions include maximum setback distances of 3,280 feet between property lines and the loudest wind turbines, and an increased decibel limit at property lines to exclude existing noise sources.
Not included in the proposed law was a recommendation for the Town Board to add a provision addressing a property owner’s rights if turbines would affect property values.
“The staff recommends ... a Residential Property Value Guarantee Agreement to alleviate any concerns of neighboring property owners regarding preservation of property values,” Dineen wrote in his review of the regulations.
He added that would allow any non-participating property owner the option to enter into an agreement where the applicant would pay the difference of the decreased property value if a turbine is built nearby.
Seigel said although some members of the public called for such a provision to be added, the reason the committee rejected the request is because it thought the Town Board has previously opposed it.
The provision would also increase the likelihood a company would challenge the entire law in court if it were included, Seigel said, and he thinks adding it would be difficult for the town to enforce.
“It’s good to have but it’s really difficult to administer,” Seigel said. “(The town of) Homer does not want to hire a residential property value guarantee consultant.”
He added in a worst-case scenario, a property owner is likely to pursue legal action on their own and Victoria Monty, the Cortland attorney working with the committee on the legislation, concurred.
“I think it’s a good idea that the board have some discussion with respect to that, knowing that this was the recommendation,” Monty said, “and that it, in fact, be considered.”
Recommendations from the Planning Department can be considered but do not have to be accepted and even if the board changes its position, adding or rejecting the provision will not have any effect on voting.
Monty said she would review the amended legislation once more before it is submitted to Town Board members who will have time to review it and make a final decision at the regular meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

 

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